In Aphelion - Interview
"Old Men In New Cars" (maybe you know that very cool Danish movie) might be a good title for In Aphelion (of course they are not as funny as the movie though). It is a new band which just released a demo (find review here) and will release an EP called "Luciferian Age" in November (find review here). Nevertheless, we don't have any newcomers in this band but two members from Swedish death metal legend Necrophobic (namely Sebastian Ramstedt (voc, git, bass) and Johan Bergebäck (git) and Cryptosis drummer Marco Prij. I talked with main man Sebastian Ramstedt via Skype about the reasons for creating this band, the upcoming releases and plans. Enjoy the interview and check the releases. Thanks again for taking time for doing this Sebastian!
Hi Sebastian, how you're doing?
I'm fine, thanks!
You've started a new band named In Aphelion. How did it come to this?
It was during the pandemic, and we were discussing to launch "Dawn Of The Damned", the latest Necrophobic album. We had some kind of internal struggle about some issues, and I am not the founder of Necrophobic and so, if the band goes away, I will not have the band name and I've been the main writer and I was thinking that it is time for me to start something that nobody can ever take away from me. Something I have the power over, and I had a lot of ideas that was out of the Necrophobic box. Different tempos, different harmonies and a different approach to the music that I want to try out and I felt now when we have at least a year of restrictions I will have the time to actually do something over this. First, I just wrote songs that were not supposed to be put out on record at all because I normally write music for myself. I have demos of over 100 songs lying around but then I felt that something happened. I got some kind of serious atmosphere. I mean Necrophobic is also serious but it's also a bit cliché at times, metal for the sake of metal. I believed in "In Aphelion" in another way. I didn't have the restrictions of the other band members, it was straight from my heart. There was nothing holding back and when the songs started to form, there were no stops and it ended up with almost 70 minutes of music. So, I felt that I have to release this in some way. This cannot be only for my own sake. I wanted to try it and see what people would think. But I think the main reason was that I realized that Necrophobic is not my name, not entirely my music because I write the songs that they shall fit in but it's not 100% as I want it. I wanted to try what this would be.
What do the other members from Necrophobic think of this project? Are they afraid you may leave the band?
They are supportive in the way that they like the posts I do but it is also like a silent agreement that we do not speak about In Aphelion (laughs). At one time Joakim (Sterner; M.) said that he supports the band but that it doesn't really feel good in the guts. Of course, when people you're working with do something else and maybe you see that it has the power to be successful this may be a kind of a threat. It's like your best friend has a new best friend – it doesn't feel that good (laughs). I think there might be some kind of conflict in this, but I don't think it will ever be an open conflict. I think they will keep it to themselves what they think.
What do you think makes the difference between Necrophobic and In Aphelion? You are quite influential in the songwriting process in both bands.
The death metal elements from Necrophobic are not from me. These elements were how David Parland, the founder of the band, wrote his music and I kinda borrow the death metal feeling from him but I am not a death metal guy. Maybe since 1991 I haven't listened to death metal at all. I like thrash, speed, heavy metal and I like some black metal but rarely death metal. I mean except for Morbid Angel, early Autopsy, Possessed and Death, it's not really my genre. It's kind of senseless aggression, it's like a gore movie with just only the gore scenes put together while black metal has the atmosphere and the thought behind the gore. Death metal is just up in the front, it's like a porno movie without any sense (laughs). With this I wanted to take all my heavy metal influences and create black metal in the way I would like to hear it. It would say it's similar to Necrophobic in some kind but it lacks the death metal elements.
You're going to release an EP called "Luciferian Age" in November via Edged Circle Productions. Can you tell a little bit more about it?
The actual reason I wanted to release an EP before the LP is because that is how it was in the 80s. The first release always was a maxi single or EP and then came the album. I am a record collector so I kind of thought that if I can do this my way, like I want, then I want to do an EP. That's like throwing money into the lake, you don't get rich from it but I want it so I will have it. I think the EP will show pretty much what In Aphelion is about. The first song is very epic; it has this entire emotional atmosphere that is In Aphelion. It has an acoustic part, it has very raw, kind of Bathory-like, black metal parts, it has speedy parts, it has a brilliant guitar solo if I can say it myself but I'm really pleased with the solo (laughs) and it has a very epic ending. If you wonder how the LP Moribound will sound, I think this song; 'Draugr' it's called summons it all. The next song 'Luciferian Age' was the last song I wrote for the album, and it will be also on the full-length. I wrote it because a lot of the songs were very lengthy and epic and had so much on it, so I wanted to do a very simple, raw, strict-down, short track and I came up with this. I mean it's a very driven riff it relies on the bass and the drums and very simple guitars. It's almost Satyricon-it wasn't on purpose at all but when I heard it I thought this is a bit of Satyricon and I even don't listen to them! So, it's pretty coincidental but it sounds like something from the "Now, Diabolical" album or something like that. But we were discussing about releasing this "hit" because this could be one. But is this what In Aphelion is about? No, it's not really but we thought it's a good song and why should we hold back a good song? I not afraid of people who think we're posers, I mean I've been in that game forever and I'm soon 50 and I don't care about that and I felt that it's a good song to put In Aphelion on the map. On the other side we have 'Wrath Of A False God' which is one of my favorite In Aphelion songs. I really like the mid-tempo middle part that has a lot of acoustic atmosphere and I like the lyrics. It's actually one of the songs that Johan (Bergebäck; M.) isn't that fond of (laughs), but Marco (Prij; M.) and me, we both think that it's one of the best songs that we have done. So, we said that we should have this song as an extra that will only be on the EP and not to put a filler there. We end with 'Pleasure To Kill' of Kreator, fantastic song. I always felt that when they recorded "Pleasure to Kill" in 1986, everybody in the band played on their own. It's so untight, so hard to see where they go because everybody is playing on their own direction and a couple of years later when Kreator got better to play, they made a bit slower version of the song that didn't have the aggression of the original. For years I felt what if we could do the original song but strengthen it up a bit and keep the aggressive feeling? So what we tried to do was make a cover of it like Kreator would have played it in 1986 if they would have known how (laughs). Of course, we don't do it better than Kreator, of course not but it's a bit easier to follow our version. I think it came out very good, it suited my vocals, it suited our guitar playing and we had a fantastic guest appearance by Dennis from the Swedish black metal band Avslut who made the bass line for this. I also was important for me to show where our origin is from. Our influences for extreme metal is not from Mayhem or Darkthrone or Dimmu Borgir, they are from the 80s German thrash metal scene. So, I felt like this is how In Aphelion started 40 years ago. This is the seed that is what In Aphelion is now. All in all, I think it's a good EP with 23 minutes running time and not a short thing.
What are the lyrics about? Are they also that metaphorical as on the last Necrophobic?
The last Necrophobic album was very personal because it was about where I was in a really dark place, but lyrics are first of all themes and myths and tales that I think fits the songs. I usually read something, the song 'Draugr' is about the northern mythology, revenants…
…like the White Walker in Game of Thrones…
..exactly. These Draugr are so jealous about the living, they want to make them one of theirs. They come in the sleep and derange you in your dreams and they cross from the cemetery and go into your house, so it's a really cool story. I felt this eerie feeling, it starts hopeful or sad and it turns into this really evil, eerie atmosphere and I felt this is a good theme for the song. But then I always twist the lyrics that it is from my perspective. I mean, would you choose to live forever? These Draugr, they have eternal life, but they also have eternal sorrow. Would you, as a person choose a short lifespan with all kinds of feelings or immortal life on the dark side? I always put in my own thoughts and how would it be if I was one of them. And the lyrics take form both from the living side and from the side of these undead. In the song, I'm sometimes the one that tries to lure more humans into this dark world and point at everyone who tries to stop this. The rest of the lyrics have also a mythological background and then I put in my own thoughts, everything we dwell with – life, afterlife, how we react with other people, and I take something from the literature that matches this, and I twist it into mine.
What would you say, which bands the most obvious influences for the songs? Can the listener hear some clear influences in the songs?
I didn't listen to black metal at all when I wrote most of the songs. But at the very end of the song writing, I had this black metal spree when I listened to Darkthrone, Bathory, Venom, everything and I kind of got the last puzzle together. So, I was influenced by them but also from "Russian Roulette" by Accept. I think on that album they have a really interesting song structure. If you listen to "Heaven Is Hell" (sings the refrain), to take down a song for 2 minutes and they just repeat this one voice and then the answer comes back, that's great. There are even more songs on the album that are so interesting in the arrangements that I actually took notes of pieces and parts and I felt like that I have to do something this good. I have to use these stones to build my own temple but I hadn't thought of switching the chords like that or making the harmonies go down. So, I think that album was very influential for this. Now we will have to see for people will say this – yeah this Accept, "Russian Roulette", haha!!
The full-length will be released in early 2022 and the first two tracks are on the full-length, too….
It could have been done to be just on the EP because the actual album is a double LP with about 60 minutes playing time. It's a pretty strong debut to have an EP with extra songs first and then a double album with everything written within 9 months. We decided that these two songs, 'Draugr' and 'Luciferian Age' are written and needed on the actual album to make the full experience. If we took it away it wouldn't have all the building stones that the album needs. For people who cannot wait until the album, they have the EP first.
How content are you with your label? What I get to read on social media let me guess that they must be pretty glad having signed you.
It was a big decision if we should go to a big label like Century Media as with Necrophobic or if we should go to a small label. The advantage of being on a small label is that you can have pretty much your will. For me, it was important to do an EP and Century Media might have said there is no money in it, so we won't. You can have some digital singles if you want to, but we will not press this expensive LP format with four songs. Stian (Smørholm; M.) of Edged Circle is also a record collector and he said that he wouldn't make any money off of it but I was totally right that there should be an EP. He would like to do this because it's fuckin 'fun and it's the way it should be'. So, he agreed, and he was not greedy. You know, that is important for me, to create music and I don't want greedy fingers on my music. And I felt that Stian is also in this for the right reason, I'm sure Century Media also but they have to make some money. Being a big company, they cannot take any risk. With Stian I have a certain connection and we talk about the artwork and videos, he's on a friendly level with me. Maybe distribution and stuff like that may suffer from being on a smaller label but as for now, I feel it's worth it.
You designed the cover for the EP. What was the influence for this? It reminds me a little bit of "Deathrace King" by The Crown.
Actually, I don't know it. We didn't had any budget for bringing an artist in and I am an illustrator. I've always had been doing stuff like that. And I felt what can I do with what I have that will not be bad. I don't have the time to do an oil painting and I don't want to do an oil painting in Photoshop because people will think that's an oil painting in Photoshop. It's better to keep things simple. If you only have black and white colors, then use that and don't try to mix in some other things – people will see that. I just tried to make powerful and some kind of direct album covers that I felt have a lot of heavy metal feeling. I wanted to look at the cover and see that this is a black or heavy metal album cover. The result is pretty much how I wanted it to be. It's very drawn, if I say cartoonish, people will think it's funny which it's not but it's on purpose. It's not made to look real. I'm pretty happy with the aesthetics and it goes through the booklet, and we did a video for 'Luciferian Age' which is in the same way. It's very simple and I am a little bit afraid what people will think about it. If you put in a lot of money, you can also have a great artist doing the cover, but I wanted to do it by myself. I've written the songs, I've recorded it so this is all how I feel it should be. It's inside in my head.
You had some troubles with the sound of your first demo. What happened there?
I don't know. They printed in Estonia, I think, and Stian had used this printer all the time, and he never had any complaints. But something must have happened to this batch, I don't know if it was in the sun or demagnetized. A lot the cassettes had sound problems like the volume was up and down and it was mono in some and some were fine. We didn't get so many complaints and most people keep it as a souvenir and most people don't have a tape player and just want a physical format instead of listening on Spotify. The company who printed it was nice enough to offer everybody a new copy that needed one and we also made a post that everybody who wanted a new one could get in touch with us. I think we solved it well.
How much were Johan and Marco involved into the songwriting process?
Marco not at all. He did alter some of the drums - I programmed the drums first and he made a couple of choices where to go with the drums but mostly he kept it within my frame so to speak but he added some things. He is a drummer, and he is so much better than me, he is so brilliant. Johan did the title track for Moribund and that was all he actually had time for because he joined In Aphelion so late, and I was just finishing the song writing so I had one song left and said that he could write it. He came up with this riff and it was so good that I felt that this should be the title track. In the future of course he will have more time, but Johan rarely writes whole songs. He is a brilliant riff maker. I think in the future he will provide me with more riffs and more ideas but maybe not so many songs. But of course, he is free to write as much as he wants.
You said that you are going to play some concerts in Sweden. Is it with Necrophobic or with In Aphelion?
It's with Necrophobic. With In Aphelion, we have loose plans how to start when the album is released. We probably will do some kind of mini release fest tour, we also have friends – Jacob Björnfot of Kvaen, I've been talking loosely with him because he will also release a new album at the same time, we will release Moribund that we should do something together. There are no real plans but we're thinking of it. But In Aphelion has to find a way to rehearse because Marco is in Holland so it's not very easy to go to the rehearsal room and just try out things. I will have to rehearse a lot because I am the lead singer and the lead guitar player. I will manage but it will be a lot of work (laughs).
So, what would you think about a tour with Necrophobic, Cryptosis and In Aphelion?
That would be kind of good for the flight tickets and would be a good package (laughs)! Good idea, let's do that, haha!
The last words are yours!
I hope that people will listen to our music, and I hope they will see the honesty in this music because there was no one demanding me to do this. There was no one telling me how to write this. This was only and purely for the music and my drive to create something. I hope this will shine through, also in the not so commercial parts. It is exactly how it works in my mind when I do not do the pieces together easily. I hope they can follow my feeling through this and add their own atmospheres to it. It will be very interesting to see what people think about this.
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